Soon we will post photos of all new lunchbox play kits. For now, please enjoy our new rainbow box labels. We hope they make you smile and feel like playing, no matter what your age!
I have always loved plays and musicals, comedies in particular. Furthermore, when I was very young, I wanted to grow up to be Gilda Radner. Rosanne Rosanna Danna was my favorite of her characters, but I loved them all. At age ten, I even got to see Gilda Live, on Broadway. Fortunately for me, decades before the V-Chip, there were liberal babysitters and older siblings who wanted to watch Saturday Night Live. Thus, I felt that I had struck gold, each weekend.
At arguably too tender an age, and annoyed for my heroine by Jane Curtin’s interruptions, I viewed and memorized the Rosanne bits. While I memorized both the times tables and Gilda’s rants, the rants proved far more entertaining, at the summer camp 4th of July talent shows. Each July 3rd, I would crimp my hair (the old fashioned way, wet braids over night), declare a bunkmate “Jane”, and morph into Maine’s only pint sized Rosanne impersonator. I did this from age 7 to 11. Since the dirty stuff went over my head, I omitted it. I believe I was also edited for content by my wise momager.
Fast forwarding a decade or two, Gilda continued to inspire a couple of turns in community theatre comedies. Consequently, when creating the Contagious Laughter™ Box Office play box for kids, I wanted to share with children my love of all things theatrical. With the fairy tale finger puppets, for example kids can create their own epic tale, along the lines of The Princess Bride, the Shrek films, Frozen, and so many others. In addition, the Box Office contains face paint, a clown nose and a felt jester hat. There is just something about a prop that brings out the performer within. It can also provide a protective form of expression for a more reserved or shy child.
Finally, a performance themed play box for kids offers mastery that movies and books don’t; children can direct their own tales, from beginning to end. With the face paint, they can even embody the next big super hero. Or they can just play and have some expressive, hammy fun, no hair crimping required.
What is it about laughter that renders it contagious? Could it be the funny sounds we make, as a chuckle bubbles up? Science surely has the physiological answers. I do know, however, that watching and hearing someone laugh gets us going. In fact, I had a childhood friend whose laughter was so communicable, that laughing was our favorite game. I just had to say, “Let’s laugh,” and it was on!
It was this simple, hilarious game that inspired each Contagious Laughter™ play boxes for kids. The Barrel of Laughs in particular, is meant to invoke a serious case of the sillies. Our play kits contain modern, non-toxic, even some gluten-free versions of the old fashioned slime that I remember, growing up. The Space Capsule contains either Pluto Putty or Mars Mud, as cosmic version of the tactile toy. In addition, the Barrel of Laughs offers Rainbow Glow Dough (GF) and Boing Putty, which is both tactile and bouncy.
Because in the late 70s, we didn’t have all of the modern and amazing gooey stuff that kids get to enjoy today, we used to experiment. I recall sleep away camp attempts to make slime from shampoo, shaving cream, baby powder, and who knows what else? We had the gross factor down, I will grant us that. To our repeated dismay, however, playing with what we’d concocted was far from appealing.
Years later, I was a day camp counselor, where slime making was one of the campers’ favorite structured activities. That’s where I learned that my bunk mates and I could have been making slime with white glue and laundry starch. Again, what is available now and in our play boxes for kids offers that non-toxic advantage.
Furthermore, as humorous as the goofy goo is, silly sounds can split our sides as well. My niece, for example, entertained three adults as much as she did herself, when let loose upon a Whoopee Cushion. Her giggles spread and took over the room. Finally, what collection of funny toys would be complete without the visually humorous? The Barrel of Laughs play box for kids also contains face paint and a foam clown nose, because sometimes a funny face speaks for itself.
What does music have to do with play boxes for kids? Well, the great thing about music is that we don’t really have to have talent to appreciate it. It just moves us. It can evoke highly time-specific sense memories, elevate our mood and induce tears. Therefore, music deserves its own Contagious Laughter™ lunchbox play kit.
I remember my childhood piano teacher, Ms. Linton. In the late 70s, she embodied the 1950s, complete with cat-eye spectacles (the word she used) on a chain, finger waved pinned hair and white hankie, jammed into her starched white cuff. Each lesson began with my attempts to identify the keys, using those little paper tickets. Furthermore, no lesson was complete without Ms. Linton using a handy hair pin to rescue tickets from between the keys.
Unfortunately for her, I didn’t relate to Ms. Linton, her teaching style or faint signature scent of mothballs. (I’m sure her cashmere sweaters remained impeccable, though.) For this reason, I rarely practiced. When I did, it was for 15 minutes, at the most. Oh, how I must have frustrated Ms. Linton.
A few years later, however, I joined the instrumental group at school, and took to it quickly. I loved playing; I practiced all the time. It was just fun and empowering to learn and play songs, and to do so with my classmates. In fact, I still own that now ancient flute, which I picked up again a few years ago. I even took some lessons.
In addition to playing instruments, regardless of how well we sing, don’t we just like to do it? I love to sing to everything from show tunes to Bruno Mars. Similarly, the Music Box play kit encourages self-expression through sound, rhythm and of course, the inflatable guitar. This musical play box for kids also includes a recorder flute and song, the lyrics to which serve as an invitation to experiment. Melody entices, “Sing a song/ hum along/ music lifts the spirits so you can’t go wrong.”
These days, children engage in so many structured and competitive activities that the value of free-form, expressive play can fall by the wayside. Furthermore, so many schools have lost funding for their musical programs. However, a a play box full of musical toys offers some unstructured fun and discovery, minus that pungent mothball aroma.
In the 90s romantic comedy Mr. Jealousy, while on a first date with Annabella Sciorra, Eric Stoltz impresses her with his Muppet walk. What woman’s heart wouldn’t melt? While developing puppet prototypes for our Contagious Laughter™ characters, I waxed nostalgic about my own childhood memories of fun with puppets.
At age five or six, I received the coolest gift: a full size, red and white stripped cardboard puppet stage. The stage, back curtain and felt puppets offered great fun. I made up plays that I performed for and with my friends, siblings and parents. Often, I just played, performing for no one in particular.
As inspiring as the puppets were, however, I was most enthralled by the large roll of “Admit One” tickets that the manufacturer had wisely included. Obviously, they knew how integral tickets are to any production. I guess I felt that the tickets lent legitimacy to my puppet shows and verisimilitude to my endeavors. After all, the post-bath time, P.J. clad performer required preparation. Therefore, I enforced a strict “no ticket no dice” policy.
Furthermore, this joyful personal memory inspired the inclusion of tickets in the Contagious Laughter™ Box Office play box for kids. The Box Office contains fairy tale finger puppets, a recorder flute and song and face paint. With these items, your child will surely create something inspired, for which you too, will be charged admission.
My memories of childhood puppets also include Muppet-like puppets that may have been Jim Henson/Sesame Street™ creations. They had blank purple, green and yellow faces, upon which I could place whichever facial features I chose. Yet again, however, I was more interested in a smaller detail—the Velcro strips, used to affix the features. Apparently, I assumed that they’d double well as bandages. Consequently, my version of Ernie appeared to have been just one mundane job and crispy condo away from refraining from discussing “Fight Club.”
Whether covered in bandages or not, we love puppets. Even as adults, mature-themed songs and dialogue move us in a unique way, when delivered by such highly expressive textiles. Therefore, since we encourage kids to think outside the play box for kids, we hope to make our Contagious Characters puppets available to yours, soon.